T-ball coaches, don’t be caught unprepared

If you're fortunate enough to have become an expert in a particular subject, it's practically a duty to give back and share that knowledge.

So today's column will focus on the most important skill a suburban parent can have — coaching your child's T-ball team.

It's been a few years, but I coached probably seven or eight T-ball squads back in the day. Yes, I have only two kids. Feel free to be less aggressive if that's what suits your coaching style.

It's a pretty simple job. It mostly requires patience, and the ability to deputize other parents to help out at practice. The rewards, though, are immense. Nothing beats the feeling of smug satisfaction as you stand in the outfield, arms folded, knowing your group of five-year-olds outperformed the five-year-olds wearing different color shirts.

Anyway, here are a few simple rules to follow:

Stack your roster: Generally, players are assigned to teams at random. So make the league manager's job easier by sending a list of players you want on your roster.

Does your kid have friends who seem athletically gifted? Notice someone excelling at a sports camp? Get them on your team. Heck, just bring in ringers from neighboring towns. No one's checking IDs at these games.

I did participate in one T-ball draft. It was basically two hours of this conversation:

“Say, I see you drafted Billy Smith. Any chance I could take him off your roster? I was fraternity brothers with his dad and the moms took a cooking class together last fall.”

“Well, I guess so. It's just that Billy was named after my great uncle and spent two weeks living with us because of a mix-up at the hospital and watches our parakeet when we leave town. But it doesn't matter to me. Take him if you want.”

Hitting is all that matters: Look, kids that age will learn to catch the ball when they're ready. But hitting is the child's turn in the spot light. All eyes in the crowd are focused on home plate.

So make sure your players know what they're doing. My advice? Secure at least two batting tees so more kids can work on hitting at practice.

How do you get two tees? The easiest way is to coach two teams at the same time. If you have multiple kids, coach both their teams. Some towns have T-ball seasons that are earlier or later in the spring. Some play on weekends, some don't. Do your research, then bring both tees to practice.

It will be well worth the effort when at midseason, an opposing coach has to walk out of the dugout and show one of his players how to hold the bat. There is no greater proof you are the superior coach.

Practice running the bases: Most of these kids are new to basic skills like when to run and where to run.

So work on it in practice. You don't want to be the coach who has a kid run from first base to the pitcher's rubber. Or hit the ball and run to third base. And no, these events never happened on my teams. Not more than once, anyway.

That's about it. You can try telling players when they're in the field at say, first base, not to sprint after a ground ball hit to the other side of the diamond. But some kids can't be stopped. They'll tire out eventually.

We'll end with the most important rule: Never allow your parents to make one of those celebration tunnels for the kids to run through at the end of games. This isn't a play date. You're there to win games.

Well, win games in spirit, anyway. Most leagues don't keep score in T-ball.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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